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SACW - 22 Sept 2012 | Rushdie interview / Pakistan: America problem; Under cities of Karachi / Sri Lanka: Postwar North / India: Left Paranoia on Globalisation ; Savarkar & Gandhi's murder; obscurantism in Karnataka / France against Austerity / Egypt's women

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire - 22 Sept 2012 - No. 2750 ... Contents: 1. NDTV’s interview with Salman Rushdie (17 Sept 2012) 2. Pakistan: Our ‘America’
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 21, 2012
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      South Asia Citizens Wire - 22 Sept 2012 - No. 2750


      1. NDTV’s interview with Salman Rushdie (17 Sept 2012)
      2. Pakistan: Our ‘America’ problem (Aasim Sajjad Akhtar)
      3. Pakistan: The Undercities of Karachi (Jan Breman)
      4. Sri Lanka: A picture of the north three years after war’s end (Jehan Perera)
      5. India - Kashmir: The obstacles in the amnesty policy for surrendered former militants (Editorial, Kashmir Times)
      6. India: Savarkar and Gandhi’s murder (A.G. Noorani)
      7. Nationalism and Fear of Foreign Capital: The Indian capitalists in organised retail are angels are they? (Harsh Kapoor)
      8. India: Karnataka Government’s Unconstitutional Action (Vidya Bhushan Rawat)
      9. France: No to Permanent Austerity: Reject the Fiscal Pact -- Open Up the Debate in Europe !
      10. Egypt's women have had enough of being told to cover up (Mariz Tadros)
      11. How Satan Is Destroying Russia (Victor Davidoff)


      [Large excerpt from] the transcript of NDTV’s exclusive interview with Salman Rushdie follows

      NDTV.com | Updated: September 18, 2012 00:34 IST

      New Delhi: India a more intolerant country today, than when it first gained independence? Author Salman Rushdie says yes it is. Speaking to NDTV, just ahead of the launch of his memoirs on the Fatwa years, Mr Rushdie says the ban on ’Satanic Verses’ that India was the first country in the world to ban the book and that set the tone. Since then, the State has failed to protect artistes or free speech. From attacks on art galleries to recent sedition cases against cartoonists, Mr Rushdie says India is no longer Nehru’s country. Nehru was a liberal, he says, who always argued against government censorship.

      Here is the full transcript of the interview:

      NDTV: Salman, It has been more two decades since the Satanic Verses was first published and then you found yourself literally living on the run after a ’fatwa’ was declared against you. Why did it take you so long to write about what happened in those years?

      Salman Rushdie: Because I did not want to for a long time. First of all the whole saga lasted almost 12 years really, and by the time I finally came out of the tunnel, and had a sort of ordinary life back, frankly the last thing I wanted to do was to go back into the tunnel and to write about it. I mean a lot of people suggested that I should write about it but I just said that I don’t want to do it. I’m a novelist, I would write novels and I want to get back to my real life and so for long time that’s what I did, I wrote novels and stories and so on but I always knew that I would write about it. That’s the only reason I kept journals through those years, because I’m normally not somebody who will keep journals, I’m not one of those writers who keep a diary everyday about their lives. But in this period I thought so much is happening with such intensity that there is no way to bring it, so write it down!

      NDTV: The memoir is called Joseph Anton, named after Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov, but before you were going to be Joseph Anton, you wanted to be ’Ajeeb mamuli’. Now because I’m an Indian, you don’t have to translate that into English for me, you know I get what it means, Ajeeb Admi who is also an ordinary Admi. Now, people might call you ’Ajeeb’, but you are not ’mamuli’!

      Salman Rushdie: I don’t know, I felt pretty ’Mamuli’ at that time. That was really just a joke; I did never think it was going to seriously catch on. I actually thought it might be a name for a character in the story really more than me but I never used him. So maybe he is still lurking somewhere to be used. I mean the reason I made this title of the book is to just give a sense to people how weird those days were. You know first of all to be asked to give up your name is very strange, especially if you are the author of the books which have your name on them, and also to be asked to give up the ethnicity of your name, don’t choose an Indian name that is too obvious, people can put two and two together etc. Then I thought well if I can’t have Indian names I can retreat it into literature which is sort of my other country I guess. That’s why I finally picked up these first names of Conrad and Chekhov in order to make this name.

      NDTV: Except much to your annoyance, not just that you have these false names which are not your ethnicity or your cultural background but Joseph becomes Joe...

      Salman Rushdie: Yes, it really annoyed me
      [. . .]
      FULL TEXT AT: http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/full-transcript-ndtv-s-exclusive-interview-with-salman-rushdie-268418

      by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar
      (Dawn - 21 september 2012)

      THE predictable unfolding of events since the inauspicious ‘release’ of an amateur film that has offended the sensibilities of Muslims across the world has once again underlined the major divisions that exist in our society.

      While conservatives with a virtual monopoly on the vernacular press and TV media play their inexhaustible ‘anti-West’ card, progressives restricted mostly to the English-language press are lamenting the irrationality of the Pakistani mind.

      The fact that this article is being read on a hastily declared public holiday, and that the major party in government has put in its two cents with the protesters would suggest that the conservatives have won this particular battle. The more pessimistic amongst the progressives would likely venture that the ‘other’ side is also winning the war.

      As in all such cases, the polemic tends to focus on the ‘anti-Islam’ posture and actions of ‘America’. In this simplistic narrative, ‘America’ is somehow responsible for every negative thing said or done against ‘Islam’.

      I share the frustration of those progressives who worry about the incredibly insular worldview of many ordinary Pakistanis. But I find the desperation and even nihilism of at least a segment of progressives rather incongruous, because surely the point is not only to harp on about our ‘America’ problem, but to try and address it.

      The panic sets in only when one becomes convinced that the problem cannot be addressed at all, that ordinary Pakistanis are somehow incapable of moving beyond the polemic and seeing the world for what it really is. And therein lies the quandary: just as the conservatives are convinced that their worldview is the right one, some of the progressives feel that their worldview must be adopted by all Pakistanis if we are to move beyond our ‘dark ages’.

      Such a diagnosis is dangerously close to an orientalist account of the ‘other’, particularly inasmuch as the ‘rationalists’ view the common hordes with suspicion at best, and contempt at worst. If nothing else, the ‘common hordes’ are anything but a monolith.

      Is it true that those involved in the protests in major urban centres are representative of Pakistani society? Is there outrage being expressed in the tens and thousands of villages across the country? Is the government trying to appease its voters or the small but powerful rightist lobby?

      And if we do assume that a vast majority of Pakistanis that have not been touched by the magic wand of rationality represent a threat to themselves and the rest of us civilised lot, then what are we doing about it (other than fearing an imminent takeover by the mullahs)?

      My humble submission is that if — and I emphasise if — progressives want to challenge the siege mentality that is an increasingly prominent feature of our social landscape, then they need to first change their own siege mentality about the ‘other’ in their own society.

      In short, the rationalists need to spend less time reacting to, and more time engaging with, ordinary people. Whomsoever believes that there is a set of rationalist principles that should inform the functioning of modern society must actually go out and tell that to those who have not yet been enlightened.

      Some context might assist in clarifying my point. I have written a number of times about a bygone era in which progressive politics and ideals occupied a prominent place in society. Many white-collar professionals of a progressive bent were deeply involved in organising workers, peasants, students, and the like. That many of these one-time revolutionaries are no longer excited by the idea of radical transformation is by the by. The problem is that other would-be revolutionaries have taken their place.

      Indeed, the 1980s marked not only the eviction of progressive ideals and politics — along with individuals and organisations — from the social and intellectual mainstream, but the attendant propagation of a competing set of ideals and politics.

      Conservatives were inducted into educational institutions, the media, and all government departments. Much is made of the role of madressahs in facilitating the rightist shift, but overstating this case actually distracts from how deep the Ziaist transformation was.

      Meanwhile the same worker, peasant and student stomping grounds that were once the exclusive preserve of progressives were literally handed over to the right. At least 110 million out of Pakistan’s 180 million people were born after 1977. This population has never known anything other than the conservative worldview.

      I want to emphasise, however, that the Pakistani establishment has peddled a siege mentality amongst its people since the inception of the state. The difference between the post-1977 period and that which preceded it is that in the past progressives resisted this mentality, and the politics associated with it, in an organised, holistic manner. Now there is only lament, isolation and contempt.

      Screaming until one is hoarse about our ‘America’ problem betrays the fact that progressives have not managed to reorganise themselves as a force to be reckoned within Pakistani politics and society at large.

      Having said this, it is never too late. The exclusion and exploitation that runs rife throughout Pakistani society in the past still blights us. There is no shortage of avenues for progressives to once again make common cause with ordinary people.

      Of course, this means that we have to do away with our irrational fear of the common hordes and recognise that human beings are not progressive or retrogressive by birth, but that their socialisation explains the values they espouse and the actions they take.

      We have a problem, yes, but it existed back in the day when our now ex-leftists were also happy and willing to decry the excesses of American imperialism, while the mullahs were celebrating the alliance with ahl-i-kitab against the godless communists. The problem continues to exist today and is likely to do so in the future, regardless of whether conservatives remain true to their currently favourite pastime of America-bashing.

      Progressives, now confined to their four walls, English-language newspapers and computer screens, need to remind themselves what the crux of the matter really is. The Pakistani state and those that claim to defend its ideological frontiers will do what they do. If we once again start to do what we once used to do without hesitation, our ‘America’ problem will eventually work itself out.

      The writer teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

      by Jan Breman
      (New Left Review 76, July-August 2012)

      The largest port on the Arabian Sea, Karachi today has a population over 20 million, on a par with Mumbai, and ranks as the world’s eighth biggest city. Commanding the north-east quadrant of the ocean, with a hinterland stretching up the Indus Valley to Afghanistan, it has been the principal entry-point for us arms and supplies in the ‘war on terror’, while refugees—and heroin—have flowed in the opposite direction. From the bloodstained birth of Pakistan with the Partition of British India, the city’s explosive growth has more often been fuelled by the ‘push’ of geopolitical, agrarian and ecological crises than by the ‘pull’ of economic development. Life in its sprawling katchi abadis, or ‘unpaved settlements’, has much in common with that of other giant undercities, such as Mumbai’s, with the exception that violence plays a significantly greater role here. The vast majority of Karachiites are not only entangled in competition with each other, in a desperate struggle for survival, but must also contend with a brutal climate of aggression fuelled by gangsterized political groupings, the most influential of which also control the armed force of the state. In what conditions do its inhabitants live and what could drive increasing numbers of newcomers to try to survive here?


      by Jehan Perera
      (The Daily Star, 16 May 2012)

      There is no doubt that the government is spending heavily on improving the infrastructure in the north and elsewhere in the country. The problem is that the majority of the people do not get the direct benefits from these projects while they are in the process of being constructed. In these circumstances, it is natural that they will look to non-governmental sources of assistance. ... But instead of encouraging the NGOs to play a bigger role in supplementing the shortfalls of the government, the government is adopting a restrictive approach to them, writes Jehan Perera from Colombo

      THE first green shoots of new life are emerging after a long period of drought in the north of the country, parts of which were not under government control for close on three decades, and where a terrible war was fought to its bitter end three years ago. Visiting the Vanni after a year it was wonderful to see the new life beginning to bloom, not only in the fertile agricultural lands but also in the towns. There are mid-sized concrete structures in which there are rows of shops that are being built along the side of the main roads. They shone like little jewels in the night as we drove past after darkness had fallen and there was a sense of security whether or not there were soldiers present.
      On most roads in the Vanni there continue to be army sentries on duty. But they rarely stop passing vehicles and when they do it is only to ask where the travelers are going. This seems to be done more to do something, and make their presence felt, than for any other purpose. Not only are the soldiers courteous there seems to be no more danger of being turned back at the checkpoints on the grounds that prior permission to travel down those roads was not obtained. This is a sign that overt military control has diminished. Whether the visible military presence is any more needed in the peaceful environment of rural Vanni needs to be considered.
      There are also long still unpaved stretches of road off the main road that do not have soldiers and it was on one of them in Kilinochchi that I took an early morning stroll. There were more people living down that road than were resident last year. More land has also been reclaimed for agricultural purposes and more war-destroyed or damaged houses were being reconstructed. Although it was very early in the morning, there was a man planting a coconut sapling and another putting up an agricultural shed. The military shops by the side of the road that sprang up everywhere in the immediate aftermath of the war’s end have been closed. There was much criticism that they were depriving the Vanni people of one source of livelihood. They have now been replaced by shops run by the people of the area.

      Giving credit
      DESPITE these significant changes for the better there was reluctance amongst the people I met to give credit to the government for contributing to these improvements. When I asked a group of young women receiving vocational training by a religious institution whether they considered the government to be their friend they replied in the negative. Those amongst the intelligentsia I met were quick to attribute improvements, such as the non-intrusive sentry points and the closure of military shops, to the Geneva resolution. They preferred to believe that it was external pressure that was inducing the government to improve its conduct rather than goodwill that was internal to the government.
      A Buddhist monk at one of the meetings I attended made the same point in a different manner. He said he had tried to organise a signature campaign against the Geneva resolution in Jaffna. The petition he wished the people to sign stated that they were opposed to international interference in the affairs of the country. However, most of the people he had approached had refused to sign the petition. They had chided him for wearing a robe and trying to get them to sign such a petition. They had told him it was the Western countries that were protecting the Tamil people and interested in their welfare. The monk bemoaned this attitude as he believed that the government meant well by the Tamil people.
      At other meetings there were different manifestations of estrangement of the Tamil people from the government. A community leader said that when vacancies arose in government departments in the Mannar district, at least 80 per cent of the jobs were given to Muslims with only the balance going to Tamils. This was due to the powerful role played by a Muslim government minister. The group of young women who were receiving vocational training said that they received no support from the government. The widows in Kilinochchi who were attending a livelihood development session said the same. The absence of governmental assistance that directly improves the lives of the people was a recurring theme in the Vanni.

      Root problem
      THE people in the north have suffered very much due to the war. Many of them lost their loved ones who are either missing or dead. Many of them also lost their houses and properties. Many of them lost the savings of generations due to the war. Therefore, they feel justified in believing that the government should show them special solicitude and provide them with direct personal assistance. But instead of receiving such assistance they see the government spending heavily on road building and government buildings. As the contracts go to companies outside of the north, most of the labourers who are recruited to work on those infrastructure projects are from the south of the country and not the people of the area.
      There is no doubt that the government is spending heavily on improving the infrastructure in the north and elsewhere in the country. The problem is that the majority of the people do not get the direct benefits from these projects while they are in the process of being constructed. In these circumstances, it is natural that they will look to non-governmental sources of assistance. Sri Lanka has a well developed NGO sector with organisations like the Sarvodaya Movement being taken as models for other developing countries in the world. But instead of encouraging the NGOs to play a bigger role in supplementing the shortfalls of the government, the government is adopting a restrictive approach to them. As NGOs are generally closer to the community than the governmental bureaucracy, this is not seen as a pro-people measure.
      Those NGOs that wish to do work in the north are expected to register with the Presidential Task Force on Northern Development and to obtain approval from that body in order to implement activities. Unfortunately, there is hardly any representation of the northern Tamil people in that government body. According to the local NGOs in the North, this Presidential Task Force decides on what the priority areas for NGOs will be and will not give them permission to work outside of its priority areas. It appears that the current priority area that is set for NGOs is that of visible development, such as putting up houses, latrines, wells, community halls and providing income generating opportunities.

      Creating resentment
      HOWEVER, not all NGOs are proficient in those areas of work that the presidential task force deems necessary, and some have different priorities, such as providing leadership training and trauma counselling. They are not given permission which has led some of them to leave the north to the detriment of the needy people there. When the government does not permit non-governmental agencies to fill in the gaps in people’s needs, it is no surprise that the people think of the government as an obstacle to their well-being, and not as a source of support. In particular, the restriction placed on community building activities such as trauma counselling and reconciliation is a source of great resentment as it prevents the memories of the past to be healed.
      Civil society groups in the north report that government authorities have indicated to them that the past should not be re-visited for the purpose of mourning and that the focus should be on the future. This may account for the restrictions placed on trauma counselling and sharing of memories by communities. A crisis now looms with the approach of the third anniversary of the end of the war which will be celebrated by the government in the coming week. In the past two years this has taken place with victory parades and with public commemorations of war heroes. At the same time it is important to remember that the end period of the war was one in which large numbers of civilians who were trapped along with and by the LTTE also died or went missing.
      In the past two years memorial services conducted by the people of the north have been viewed with suspicion and even been prevented by governmental authorities due to the perception that such memorial services are meant for the LTTE. However, the mourning and remembering of lost ones in the month of May is an important and indispensable part of the process of coming to terms with the past. If this part of the healing process is blocked there can be no moving forward to the future and to reconciliation that transcends the past. The government needs to show more trust in the Tamil people and more care for their concerns if is to win their hearts and minds.
      Jehan Perera is media director of the National Peace Council in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

      Editorial, Kashmir Times [?, 2012]

      Amnesty scheme lacks firmly grounded mechanism and Delhi-Islamabad agreement

      The obstacles in the amnesty policy for surrendered former militants who crossed the Line of Control in the last two decades are far more than the officially doled out reasons of non-co-operation of the Pakistan government. Jammu and Kashmir government which announced the policy in 2010 maintains that it has received over 1,000 applications from youth who crossed over and are willing to return, most of them with wives they married there and children who were born out of the wedlock, and that they have already cleared over 500 applications. It is also reported that over a hundred of them have returned ever since by crossing the forbidden LoC or via the Nepal border and the government believes that the numbers are steadily increasing. However, given the vast gap between what has been promised to the returnees and what is actually offered on ground is something that may obstruct the trickle of those willing to take benefit under this policy. Those returning are complaining of harassment and ticklish problems in their resettlement with court cases pending against them, the legal status of their wives and children in a limbo and their children being refused admission in schools. The statelessness is not simply restricted to the families since last month the courts even questioned the citizenship of atleast one of the returnees who crossed the Nepal border, maintaining that entry of a Pakistani citizen into Indian territory via Nepal border would amount to an illegal move. Such charges tend to deflate the balloon of the amnesty policy claims that the Jammu and Kashmir has been celebrating about. Besides, some of those who have crossed over and the other prospective beneficiaries of the scheme have also reportedly talked about their vulnerability with security and intelligence agencies on either side forcing them to engage in spying activities.
      Evidently, the basic problem with the amnesty scheme is the absence of a firmly grounded mechanism, whose first and foremost requirement should be a clear agreement between the Indian and the Pakistani governments. This is entirely missing even though all indications point out to a tacit understanding between the two sides, paving way for the return of over 150 returnees, mostly along with families. It is hardly unlikely that Pakistan’s agencies are totally ignorant of the fact that people are traversing either the Line of Control to go back to their homes or taking the longer route on Pakistani passports via Nepal. However, such hush hush manner of an understanding is what jeopardizes the interests of the people who are expected to gain from the much publicised open policy. But then safeguarding the interests was probably never the aim of the policy which simply put is an Indian endeavour to offer a picture of normalcy to the world through a symbolic display of return of those deemed as misguided youth, those who crossed the borders to join militant groups are fed up with ‘jehad’, are disgruntled in Pakistan administered Kashmir and want to lead normal lives. If their interests were paramount, then why does the policy not cover those people who crossed over, not because of some mesmerisation with the gun or out of political reasons, but because of fear? Questions may also be asked as to why this policy fails to cover those whom Indian army made to flee or even those whom Pakistani agencies kidnapped from their homes in the borderland, only because the respective forces wanted a better stronghold over their land for strategic military gains. A genuinely designed policy may even have facilitated a more foolproof mechanism which Pakistan could not have shied away from inking to pave way for actual relief for those who wish to return. The problems with the amnesty policy, therefore, do not simply lie in an unmoved Pakistan, not even in the way it is being implemented with a half-hearted approach with no meaningful efforts to allow these returnees to settle honourably. There are conceptual flaws in the very design of the policy that is simply a ploy to score brownie points and such political gimmicks have always been known to have a rebound effect that can have dangerous consequences.

      by A.G. Noorani
      (Frontline, Sep. 22-Oct. 05, 2012)

      If only Savarkar’s bodyguard and his secretary had testified against him in court, he would have been convicted for Gandhi’s murder.

      On July 12 Swapan Dasgupta made an interesting disclosure in the evening on television. L.K. Advani had told him that according to Morarji Desai, V.D. Savarkar was complicit in Mahatma Gandhi’s murder but got away with it. Morarji was Home Minister in the Province of Bombay and he had once stated on oath, “[I] kept myself in touch with the investigation that was going on in the Bombay Province.” He knew the truth. So did Jamshed Nagarvala, Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the Bombay Criminal Investigation Department’s (CID) Special Branch Sections One and Two. He was responsible for the gathering of political intelligence and was close to the Home Minister.
      [. . .]
      FUUL TEXT AT: http://frontline.in/stories/20121005291911400.htm

      o o o

      SEE ALSO:
      1969 Report of Jeevan Lal Kapur Commission of Inquiry in to Conspiracy to Murder Mahatma Gandhi

      by Harsh Kapoor

      [Photo Caption] BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, CPI leader Amarjeet Kaur, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury and BJP president Nitin Gadkari share the dias during a rally organised by Confederation of All India Traders against FDI in retail and other anti-people policies of the UPA government, in New Delhi on Thursday.
      Photo: V. Sudershan (http://www.thehindu.com/multimedia/dynamic/01214/ALL_PARTY_1_1214120f.jpg)

      see the news report in The Hindu (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3918094.ece?homepage=true)

      A platform called Confederation of All India Traders against FDI in retail, i.e. small traders fora part of the unorganised retail (a heavy support base of the communal Hindu right) organised the big rally in Delhi on [20 septumber 2012] uniting the Left and the Right wing parties. One can understand the left opposing rise in price of fuel and gas but opposing FDI in big retail beats all logic other than rabid nationalism.

      I am writing this to neither defend the interests of foreign multinationals that may or may not come to India with their foreign direct investment in organised retail, nor this elitist policy decision of the UPA govt. This decision by the 'golden boys' of the UPA govt to open the gates to FDI in retail will in all probability be a damp squib and not lead to any deluge of foreign firms entering India. The foreign firms heading to India to enter retail may not lead to a million jobs but certainly to a few thousand. The point is why is the left not willing to confront capitalist retail head-on, why is it burying its head in nationalism. Left's opposition to FDI in retail comes over as a preference for Indian capital as opposed to devilish foreign capital - i.e., as a nationalist rather than class critique. The left could present a cogent alternative economic proposals that they take to the public along with a critique of prevailing economic policy. But, they must take a clear social distance from right wing BJP opposition party.

      Reliance, Godrej, RPG, Birlas, Kishore Biyani's Big Bazar are major domestic capitalist firms in India's organised retail and they have been there for the past 10 - 15 years, still these groups control just 5% of India's retail market. The omnipresent local corner stores, street vendors, thela-wallah outlets that often employ child labour and dont pay minimum wages in India's cities havent dissapeared because of the arrival of Indian capitalists in organised retail. This unorganised sector forms the majority of all retail. The WalMarts and the Carrefours if they do manage to come to India will not decimate the small retail. The arrival of big firms in retail will provide an opportunity to organise workers for better rights and working conditions. The left should go whole hog to unionise these workers instead of peddling a nationalist posture that fuels xenophobia.

      This nationalist opposition to FDI, seems to come from a shared language of the Left and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch type fora.
      - Harsh Kapoor /sacw.net

      by Vidya Bhushan Rawat
      The Karnataka Government’s order asking the temples of the State to perform rituals so that rain comes to save the farmers and cattle of the State is a blatant violation of the Constitution. Can a State Government of a secular country invest huge amount of money on performing puja to bring rain? How will this influence the minds of our children? The Karnataka Government’s Revenue Department has issued a circular to nearly 34,000 temples of the State to conduct several rituals to bring rains in the State so that the farmers may be saved from the severe drought situation prevailing there. It is not that these rituals would be performed free of cost. The State Government has made elaborate arrangements to fund these ‘projects’ but, according to political leaders of the State, it might come from other schemes. The government, it seems, is determined that once these rituals are performed, the Gods will be pleased and rain will pour in the State for the welfare of the people and cattle. According to news published in The Hindu, the government has sanctioned a maximum of Rs 5000 for each temple and the amount costing the event would be around Rs 17 crores. The government has too much faith in some of the temples which are mentioned in the circular. This GO is a serious violation of India’s Constitution which, as per Article 51A, asks the government to promote humanism and scientific temperament. The other noted violation is the secular Preamble of our Constitution. If the government believes in different powers of Gods, then it must give support to all the religious institutions so that it is not charged with blatantly violating the secular Constitution of the country and promoting the activities of a particular faith.



      (a broad alliance is preparing an important demonstration, whose goal is the delegitimization and the rejection of the Fiscal Pact as the opening of a public and democratic debate in France and in Europe. Posted below is the english translation of a leaflet that is to be circulated at a large unified demonstration in Paris called by progressive platform on sunday 30 september 2012)

      No to Permanent Austerity: Reject the Fiscal Pact -- Open Up the Debate in Europe !

      The President of the Republic would like to have the Parliament ratify as quickly as possible the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance (TSCG) of the Eurozone, better known by the name "Budgetary Pact", which was signed by Nicolas Sarkozy on March 25. However, the feeble "growth" measures announced on May 29 in no way constitute the "renegotiation" promised during the electoral campaign by Francois Hollande, which "adds austerity to austerity".

      This Budgetary Pact will aggravate the neoliberal policies advocated for years now and which have led to the current problems of the Eurozone. It is, in the first place, an economic absurdity. By stipulating that the "structural deficit" of a country has to be less than 0.5 % it will oblige the states to make drastic cuts in public expenditures. It will deprive public power of indispensable means for carrying out policies allowing a social and ecological transition. Instead of this, we need to develop and renew public services and social protection to respond to the many unmet needs, reduce social inequities and establish equality between women and men. We need considerable public investments to finance energy transition, reduce pollution, ensure the ecological conversion of the modes of production and consumption and create millions of jobs. An obligation to achieve permanent balanced budgets will be a major restraint on attacking the social and ecological crisis.

      In a Europe in which the customers of one country are the suppliers of the other, the orientation begun two years ago is today leading to generalised recession. The difficulties with PSA (The Peugeot-Citro?n group) and other companies flow directly from the collapse of demand in southern Europe. Today purchasing power is stagnating or declining and enterprises and local governments are reducing their investments: In this context, cutting public expenditures can only aggravate unemployment. Starting in 2013, according to a study undertaken by the IMF itself, bringing France's deficit in line with the target of 3 % of GDP announced by the government will automatically create 300,000 more unemployed workers. The resultant reduction of tax revenues will make reducing debt -- the alleged purpose of austerity -- still more difficult, thus "justifying" a new turn of the screw.

      Economically stupid, this Budgetary Pact is socially unbearable, seeing as the "structural adjustment programmes" currently imposed on Greece and other countries in difficulty reduce social protections, increase illegal practices and most badly hit the precarious populations -- women, youth, workers and immigrants. Far from protecting northern European countries from suffering the same fate as those in the south, this Pact drags the whole Union into a depressive spiral that threatens to spread poverty. This would mean a decline without precedent in the entire period after World War II.

      Finally, this Budgetary Pact represents a denial of democracy. Not only does it provide for quasi automatic sanctions in the case of non-adherence, but it marginalises the national and European parliaments and makes of the Commission and the European Court of Justice -- non-elected organs -- the judges of national budgets. It puts in place an authoritarian federalism that negates popular sovereignty. It puts the economy on automatic pilot, subordinated to norms intended to reassure the financial markets whose power is not challenged.We do not accept this.

      The social, ecological and financial world crises are worsening. They present many dangers, which can be seen in the growing strength of extreme xenophobic and nationalist right groups. These crises require a Europe-wide mobilisation but in a Europe based on solidarity and democracy, a Europe that frees itself from the grip of the financial markets. However, the Budgetary Pact will instead reinforce the contradictions within the Eurozone and could lead to its disintegration. France's refusal to ratify this treaty would be a strong signal to send to the other peoples of Europe to open up the discussion on constructing another Europe.

      This is why we, the signatory organisations of this text, reject this Budgetary Pact that concerns everyone's future. We demand that a broad democratic debate be initiated in order that citizens may take possession of this decisive issue and speak out on it. We want to make the President of the Republic, his government and the parliamentarians face their responsibilities.

      To create this democratic debate, we call for the strengthening of already extant local collective structures -- notably those involved in a citizen's audit of the public debt --, and for the creation of new structures if need be; together, we will organise a series of public debates throughout France; we will speak to every deputy and senator of the parliamentary majority and invite citizens to do the same, and we will organise demonstrations, including a large unified demonstration in Paris on Sunday, September 30. An organisational committee has already been put in place to assure the success of these initiatives.

      First signatories:
      Aitec-IPAM, AC !, ANECR, Attac, CADTM, Cedetim-IPAM, CDDSP, CFDT CFF, CGT Finances, CGT Educ'action, CGT Livres (Filpac), CGT Personnels des Organismes Sociaux, CGT-FSA, CGT UGFF, URIF CGT, CNDF/CADAC, Democratie Reelle Maintenant !, DIDF, Collectif des Associations Citoyennes, Les Economistes Atterres, Fondation Copernic, Front de gauche - Parti communiste francais - Parti de gauche - Gauche unitaire - FASE - Republique et Socialisme - PCOF - Convergences et Alternative - Gaucheanticapitaliste, FSU-Ile de France, SNESUP-FSU, SNU Pole Emploi FSU,SNU-tefi FSU, SNU-clias FSU, EE(Ecole Emancip?e) FSU, Jeunes Communistes, Les Alternatifs, Les efFRONT?-e-s, M?moire des luttes, M'PEP, Marches Europeennes, NPA, Parti de la gauche Europeenne, Parti Federaliste Europeen, Parti pour la decroissance, Reseau Education Populaire, Resistance Sociale, Solidaires Finances Publiques, Solidaires Douanes, Sud BPCE, Transform!, Union Syndicale de la Psychiatrie, Union syndicale Solidaires, UFAL, Utopia.

      Demonstration -- Nation-Place d'Italie - Septembre 30 -- 13h30


      by Mariz Tadros
      (The Guardian, 29 May 2012)

      Politically charged calls from a Coptic bishop to follow a Muslim example have infuriated women already suffering harassment

      Woman in front of election poster
      'The political battles over who reigns over Egypt are not only being fought over presidential and parliamentary seats, but also over who can claim more control over a woman’s body.' Photograph: Amr Nabil/AP

      While all eyes are focused on the presidential race, on the streets of Egypt, inch by inch, bit by bit, women's rights are shrinking. Women, Muslim and Christian, who do not cover their hair or who wear mid-sleeved clothing are met with insults, spitting and in some cases physical abuse. In the urban squatter settlement of Mouasset el Zakat, in Al Marg, Greater Cairo, women told me that they hated walking in the streets now. Thanks to the lax security situation, they have restricted their mobility to all but the most essential of errands. Whereas a couple of years ago they could just inform their husbands where they were going (visiting parents, friends or going to the hairdresser for example), now they have to get their husbands or older sons to accompany them if they go out after sunset.

      And the Islamists have made it worse. A Coptic Christian woman said to me "we and our Muslim friends who do not cover our hair get yelled at by men passing by telling us 'just you wait, those who will cover you up and make you stay at home are coming, and then there will no more of this lewdness'". It was, she said, as if they were gloating over the fact that we were being pushed off the streets. Another woman told me that girls and women wearing mid-sleeved clothing had been slapped on their bare arms by men on bicycles shouting slurs. Another told me she had been spat on by men telling her to cover up. Another told me that she had her hair up in a pony tail and a young man pulled it so hard that she thought her head was going to fall off. Another recounts how she was pushed and elbowed by a passerby telling her to cover her nakedness (she was wearing a mid-sleeved blouse and trousers).

      The political battles over who reigns over Egypt are not only being fought over presidential and parliamentarian seats, but also over who can claim more control over a woman's body. Take the example of Bishop Bishoy, one of the nominees for the papal seat of the Coptic Orthodox Church (Coptic Christians in Egypt account for roughly 12% of the population). In a recent religious event which was attended by the governor of Damietta, high-ranking officials and politicians, he said that Christian women should dress more modestly like their Muslim sisters and that they should follow their example. In view of the fact that the great majority of Muslim women are now veiled, this can only mean that he wishes Christian women to cover their hair too. In the streets of Egypt, many Coptic women have been told "Our Lady Mariam [referring to St Mary] used to wear a tarha [long scarf covering the hear], why can't you follow her example and cover up?".

      Many Coptic women were infuriated. It is bad enough that thanks to the Islamists and a hostile government, they are now subjected to the most virulent of anti-Christian sentiment in their day-to-day life but to also get it from a high-ranking authority in the Coptic church is too much. They had no illusions why Bishoy made such a statement: he wants to win over the Islamists by showing he is willing to comply with their dress code for women.

      To express their opposition to the political instrumentalisation of Coptic women by Bishoy for his own political ends, about 50 Coptic women and men staged a protest in the Coptic Patriarchate in Abbassiya on 18 May. This was the first time in the modern history of Egypt that Coptic Christian women had risen against a member of the clergy in protest. It is the first time they had collectively raised their voice to demand their rights as Coptic Christian women. The protests did not go well with all Christians: what's wrong with modesty many said, why attack the church now? Others said that while they completely sympathised with the cause of the protesters, this was not the time.

      As one of the organisers of this protest, I tried to explain why we couldn't wait. I explained that if there is talk of women's modesty today, tomorrow there is more pressure on veiling, the day after it is going to be a socially imposed ban on trousers, after that a ban on women's freedom of mobility, until bit by bit, inch by inch we are driven back home.

      We, as Coptic Egyptian women, will not allow ourselves to be used as pawns by any leader inside the church or out to achieve his own political ends.

      by Victor Davidoff
      (The Moscow Times - 17 September 2012)

      Welcome to 1598. In this year, King Henry IV of France proclaimed the Edict of Nantes, which regulated relations between the country's Catholics and Protestants and put an end to a religious war that had been raging for decades. Four centuries later, in Russia, in September 2012, billionaire and former presidential candidate Mikhail Prokhorov proposed a federal religious code to prevent an all-out religious war.

      "In recent months, the relationship between citizens and the state and church has already led to a schism in society that threatens Russian culture," Prokhorov wrote in a comment published in Kommersant on Sept. 12. He noted that despite the secular government clause in the Constitution, "the majority of politicians, including the leaders of parties in parliament, prefer to ignore what's written there. Cozying up to the church … undermines the basic principles of the country's supreme governing document and creates a multitude of dangers."

      The words "threat" and "danger" are bandied about by just about every Russian politician and public figure these days. But leaders have vastly different notions of what exactly the danger is. In a meeting with the public in Krasnodar on Sept. 12, President Vladimir Putin said the main danger for the country is insufficient patriotism and a lack of "respect for our history and traditions and the spiritual values of our peoples."

      Putin also said Russia has become the "focus of an overt information war … and certainly of a well-directed propaganda attack."

      Putin's speeches often sound like they have been written by professional diplomats, and their ambiguity raises more questions than his statements answer. For example, what "spiritual values" does Putin have in mind? This is, after all, the man who used the phrase "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century" to describe the dissolution of the Soviet Union, one of the most militantly anti-religious regimes in history. And who is "directing" these attacks against the spiritual values of Russia's nations?

      Perhaps the key to understanding Putin's speech can be found in a recent television program by Arkady Mamontov, "Provocateurs. Part Two," aired on Rossia 1 state television a day before Putin spoke in Krasnodar. Mamontov, who has already established himself as a politically sensational filmmaker, revealed in his latest program that the United States has developed a plan for revolution in Russia. The foot soldiers in this revolution are members of the punk-performance group Pussy Riot. We were told that the main organizer of the revolution, including the Pussy Riot stunts, is billionaire Boris Berezovsky, who is pulling the revolutionary strings from his self-exile in London.

      Neither Mamontov nor his interview subjects, professional Putin-lovers, produced a single fact proving contact between Berezovsky and the punk musicians. Nor did Mamontov interview Berezovsky, although the tycoon immediately responded with a categorical denial of having anything to do with Pussy Riot.

      The film was harshly criticized not only by the liberal end of the political spectrum but even by some members of the Russian Orthodox clergy. Deacon Andrei Kurayev, whose views are hardly liberal, wrote on his LiveJournal blog: "I am not a supporter of Pussy Riot or Berezovsky. But why lie? Why pass off licentious animal instincts for the norms of Christianity?"

      Perhaps Kurayev and Mamontov have different notions about Christianity and its norms. In an interview with the Internet portal Orthodoxy and the World, Mamontov spun out a truly apocalyptic picture: "The devil really wants to destroy Russia and its people, to build something else on its territory," he said.

      Mamontov isn't the only one seeing dark visions. A statement issued by the Eurasian Youth Union, headed by the pro-Kremlin ideologue Alexander Dugin, reads: "Everyone who sympathizes with liberals, Pussy Riot and the West belongs to Satan. This is the army of hell."

      In the days leading up to Saturday's opposition march, the Eurasian union called upon its supporters to take to the streets to defy them: "On Sept. 15, the devil's spawn will crawl out on the streets. Eurasians will go out with crosses, daggers and silver bullets to stop hell."

      Satan, evil oligarchs and punk rockers who have sold their souls to the devil, silver bullets, daggers and crosses. It sounds like a script for another Hollywood film about the eternal war between mortals and vampires. Unfortunately, in Russia this is simply a description of public opinion, which exists alongside the Internet and digital television. In fact, technology just spreads the paranoia.

      Society has become split between the liberals and the Orthodox fundamentalists, who are locked in a Cold Religious War. There are no fatalities in this war yet, but there are casualties and prisoners of war. Take, for example, the three Pussy Riot members locked up for two years in prison.

      In this context, Prokhorov's proposal to ratify a religious code likely won't go anywhere, at least in the near future. If we are lucky, the cold war won't turn hot, and virtual silver bullets won't be transformed into real bullets fired from a Kalashnikov rifle.

      Victor Davidoff is a Moscow-based writer and journalist who follows the Russian blogosphere in his biweekly column.


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